Bal Chabda is back after a gap of nearly 17 years

An exhibition of Bal Chabda's paintings opened at Jehangir on January 28, 2003. After his solo show back in 1985, he is here after a gap of nearly 17 years with a retrospective of sorts. On the first glance his works seem abstract, but you would on close observation notice that he actually distorts the known shapes and forms to make an intriguing visual. His work has faintly discernible boundaries of the form in lyric dispositions. These are at the same time just positions of color, which in recent times have created both intimate and expansive spaces.

The 80-year-old self-taught artist is known to be a mutli-faceted personality; he is recognized as an artist, a gallerist, an avid collector and also as a filmmaker. Before he took to painting, he was in the family business of film distribution and exhibition in Ahmedabad. In fact, it was his passion for making films that took him on a year long explorative journey to Hollywood in 1947. In the '50s he made "Do Raha" on the theme of art versus love. The film, starring Nalini Jaywant and Shekhar, was the story of a girl who chose painting over love. Sadly, it failed to click at the box office.

Undeterred, Chabda set on a mission to gather finance for another production. Accidentally, he met M F Husain who took him to the Bhulabhai Institute, where creative personalities like Pandit Ravi Shankar, dramatist Ebrahim Alkazi and artist Tyeb Mehta, S H Raza, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, V S Gaitonde, etc. used to assemble. Husain and Gaitonde urged him to paint. Since then, Bal Chabda hasn't looked back. He started painting in 1958, and held his first one-man show in 1985. The one now at Jehangir is only second one-man show

Chabda is one of the distinguished artists associated with the Progressive Artists' Group made a vital contribution to the contemporary art movement in India by consciously seeking a new form which could describe the Indian reality immediately after the country's independence. The group included almost all the important artists working in Bombay in the 50's.

Reviving the memories of the glory days, Chabda brought together Padamsee, Krishen Khanna, Husain, Tyeb Mehta, Raza, Gaitonde and Ram Kumar for a group show, titled Ashtanayak, on the eve of Tao Art Gallery's first anniversary show in 2001. Never had these eight artists, who gave shape to post-independence Indian art, had exhibited together. Chabda since the '50s has been the cementing factor among them. During that time he had supported many young artists by exhibiting their works at his Gallery 59 in the Bhulabhai Institute premises at Warden Road, South Mumbai.

In 1970, when Jehangir Nicholson gave a donation to NCPA, requesting J R D Tata to use this for a museum of modern art, it was with the help from Bal Chabda and Narayanan Menon that the idea was actualized.

Chabda has participated in several exhibitions in India and abroad including Salon de la Jeune Peinteure, Paris and Tokyo Biennale, 1960. He was awarded the Tokyo Governor's Award in 1961, the Lalit Kala Akademi Award 1965 and a fellowship to work in the USA in 1972. He has partcipated in the exhibition, Seven Indian Painters at Gallerie Le Monde de U Art, Paris, 1994. He was selected to show along with the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Jackson Pollock at the show of contemporary art in the east and west held at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo in 1969. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.

The exhibition of artist Bal Chabda's paintings from 1958 to 2003, a retrospective of sorts, is on view till February 3, 2003.

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